Oliver Stone loves controversy. And depending on your perspective this is either his greatest strength or his most loathsome weakness, and there are plenty of people in both camps. Yet here, in W., despite what you may believe, is the most restrained and least opinionated Stone film but for the awesome U-Turn. He resists the temptation to demonise Bush, and doesn't even make him the villain of the piece. Instead, tells a human story of a man whose ambition and need to please his father supercedes his abilities. And it would be much more inspirational if it weren't for the startling body count left by W.'s search for approval and recognition.
I can't go any further without acknowledging the remarkable performance of Josh Brolin. I just can't give him enough compliments for this, because he truly inhabits the character and it goes past mere impersonation to what is simply a tour de force that if in a better movie would have won an oscar. He's come along way since being the 2nd male lead in Hollow Man. I can't imagine there being many better performances then this in this year. As for the rest of the cast, its a little hit and miss even though you won't care because Brolin blasts them so completely off the screen. Of the hits, Jeffrey Wright gives a great quiet, dignified turn as Colin Powell; Elizabeth Banks is extremely good in an under-written role as Laura Bush, recast for this movie as an angelic supportive wife and Richard Dreyfuss gives great Bond Villain as Dick Cheney. Toby Jones is great as Karl Rove and Jones is quietly becoming one of my favourite bit-part actors on screen, never given much time but always seems to make the most of it. Sadly, the usually reliable Thandie Newton is borderline embarrassing as Condoleeza Rice, in what is very much a 2d impersonation. The script is tighter then the usual biopic, and doesnt forget to be well written. So that was a pleasant suprise. But there is a hint of formula to the film and it is the weakest of Stone's presidential trilogy, which also includes JFK and Nixon
I love the liberal, controversial Stone, but he wisely puts that persona on hold and lets it take a back seat allowing Brolin to be the star of the show. And as I predicted previously on this blog, it is much better then your gut tells you it will be. In your face. Still it hits the higher end of good rather then great.